Stars align for Vegas debut

Oct 3, 2017 3:01 AM

Friday night in Dallas, Las Vegas history will be made. The Golden Knights’ first game in the NHL ushers in the era of professional sports in our fair city. No need to pinch yourself. This is reality and the Raiders’ arrival is right around the corner.

Sitting in a boat in White Fish, Montana Bill Foley told his neighbor Murray Craven he was thinking about bringing a hockey team to Las Vegas. Craven steadied himself and didn’t fall in the water. He knew Foley was serious.

The rest is history. Foley staged a furious ticket drive, watched T-Mobile Arena rise up between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo, and oh by the way, coughed up $500 million dollars. Voila. Las Vegas had a pro sports franchise.

Craven has been along for the ride ever since and was instrumental in building a world-class practice facility in Summerlin.

The naysayers were everywhere. Now they’re under a rock. USA Today recently reported the Vegas Golden Knights had seven of the top 10 best-selling tickets in the NHL and Stub Hub had processed tickets for games at T-Mobile Arena from all 50 states and 18 different countries.

The numbers that really matter in our backyard happen to be on the wagering board. The Golden Knights’ arrival has helped spike the hockey handle around the valley and it will continue to rise. The reality is hockey is responsible for a miniscule fraction of wagering in relation to football, basketball, and baseball. That doesn’t mean the new kid in town won’t generate new fans of the sport and new players at the windows or clicking away on a mobile app.

“The VGK are young and built to win in 3-5 years,” said Jay Kornegay, sportsbook director at the Westgate Superbook. “In the meantime, they’ll struggle in the win/loss department but will be competitive. In their inaugural year, we set their over/under season point total at 68.5. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them surpass that number.”

It’s a surprisingly high number for a fledgling expansion team. There was early money that surfaced on the over and the ticket count has been in support of the Golden Knights.

Station Casinos properties currently offer 67.5 points on the board. Last year the Colorado Avalanche were buried most nights and ended the season with only 48 points.

When Vegas makes their debut Friday, the Dallas Stars are -240 on home ice with the Golden Knights +210, and the total is 5.5 Under -120. As for the home opener Tuesday, Oct. 10, Vegas and the Arizona Coyotes are -105 each way and the total is 5.5 Under -130.

“We’ll be thinking outside the box with props and different betting options on all Golden Knight’s games,” said Sunset Station Sports Book Director Chuck Esposito. “We may offer over under props on power play goals and shots on goal plus player props, which will create 60 minutes of betting excitement.”

There are many positives regarding the team George McPhee will put on the ice and Gerard Gallant will guide. There is solid team speed and potentially surprising offensive punch. Defensively, this team has a solid contingent but is there a true anchor on the blue line? Shea Theodore will be that player for years to come as his development continues. The goaltending situation appears solid.

Here are a few things to consider if playing the season points total for Vegas. On the plus side, in the middle of the season the Golden Knights will likely face an inordinate amount of backup goaltenders.

The other side of the equation is the likely scenario that several of the Golden Knights best players will be moved at the trade deadline for future considerations. Injuries are unavoidable and lack of depth could prove to be a major concern, as the core of this team won’t be developed for a few years.

For me, it’s about being competitive and entertaining with an eye on the future for this organization. I expect this team wins in the neighborhood of 27 games and accrues 62 points.

The bottom line; this is an expansion team. They’ll shock you on some nights but will face an uphill battle more often than not. It’s a speed game now but it remains to be seen how Vegas will stack up physically during the NHL grind. Relish the moment. Regardless of the results, this group of players will always be remembered for being the first pro athletes in Las Vegas and always have a place in this community’s heart.